I have been taking to the road occasionally with a Half-Julian outdoor easel trying my hand at oil painting in the open air, commonly referred to as “plein air” painting. Artists have sketched outdoors for generations using their field work as source material for larger works. Plein air painting has become an art form in itself. This process became much more accessible with the development of pigments in tubes which allowed artists to take their materials conveniently out of the studio. I believe tubes of paint and the outset of photography provided the motivation for the Impressionist movement to depart from traditional, representational studio painting in the 1800’s. For painters like myself, trained in still life and indoor figure painting, it is an experimental adventure to be “ out there” with paints and brushes trying to capture what I see. I admire those who do this regularly. Photographs cannot record the outdoors as can an observant eye, a controlled brush, and dedicated perseverance.
When I introduce sea rovers (or other figures) into the tropical environments I paint, as I did with “Drawn to the Sea”, an authenticity of place combines with my figure research to achieve a more truthful result, provided I successfully integrate light source information and perspective issues.
The location where I worked on “Tree Huggers” is a spot next to one of the hiking trails nearby which is left to grow wild. I was attracted to the dappled light seen through the foliage at sunset also repeated by the lichens on the trunk of the oak. I revisited this spot with my painting kit several times with this small 10” x 8” gesso panel as the light is so transient at that time of day. And because mosquitoes get so hungry when the sun is setting!
I suppose I am a true tree hugger at heart. We do all we can in our household to support the environment and lower our ecological footprint. This past year we had 42 solar panels installed on our studio roof that supply our home with solar electricity during daylight hours. Now, no matter the colors I employ in my work, every painting I do is “green”.
Ace in the Hole
Lashie Come Home
When I find myself in situations where I am relatively idle, I produce small watercolor paintings. These two are about 10″ x 8″. The subject matter ranges from serious to fun and maritime to fantastic subjects like dragons and wizards. I have a very compact travel kit and utilize small papers and boards that allow me to work in airports, airplanes, hotel rooms, in front of TV, at conventions, events or, paint from direct observation on location. I gather a bit of research, bring some extra brushes and use available napkins. My kit comes with one small brush, a water container and tub, and has a selection of half pans of color. I have been experimenting with different paper surfaces. “Ace in the Hole” is from photos I took of a friend’s parrot who was mangling a business card and “Lashie Come Home” originated from photos taken of our one eyed cat in his younger days.
Many of these elaborate doodles have become spot illustrations for such things as my calendars of a few years back, and can be found reproduced on each face of a complete deck of playing cards sold in the initial Raiding Parties Card game: http://www.raidingparties.com Depending how well the resulting paintings resolve, I sell these in galleries, online, and at events I attend. To see a selection of maritime watercolor vignettes go to http://www.paravia.com/DonMaitz/website/MaritimeHeritage/Gallery/Watercolors.html
Also, these travel doodles have given me confidence to attempt such things as an edition of watercolor remarques in Stephen King’s “Desperation” illustrated first edition. The book’s paper stock was not intended to receive pigments and it was a challenge to not destroy the paper as I worked. To see these visit-
This watercolor portrait was commissioned as a birthday gift. The model’s husband is a terrific published photographer who provided me with very nice, well lighted, photos to use as source material. As this was to be a surprise, I employed photos of hats and period costumes from my picture file to place her in period dress. I emailed line drawing to show the intended presentation before I began the painting. A few years before, I also painted the model’s husband, who this time is the commissioning client, in pirate garb as a Christmas gift, so the couple now has His and Her matching piratical portraits. I have completed both watercolor and oil portraits such as this.
Another example Is this portrait celebrating a wedding completed from several photos taken on their wedding day.
“Drawn to the Sea” –
I am referring to these sort of works as sea rovers rather than pirates to lend them an air of the romantic. This small 10” x 8” oil on linen painting began on North Lido Beach, Sarasota in August last year. After sweltering in mid-day sun while blocking in the colors, I decided to quit for the time being, as I was turning into… a half baked artist! Painting on location allows to more truthfully record the colors observed and is worth the effort of bringing materials out of the studio environment. Photographs taken for source material record details, but do not carry the subtle depth of color, nor any emotional interpretation of the setting. This painting lingered unfinished for several months, it being my intention to revisit the scene to add finishing touches. I was inspired to add a figure, in fact, this was my intention, but I had not the foreknowledge of what that figure or subject might be. Having nearby access to tropical environments, I have longed sought to introduce renditions of early adventurers exploring the New World to what remains of our untouched Florida landscape. I searched my picture files for a subject that would lend itself to the work and found a reference photo which “felt right” and had the same lighting. I placed an outline lightly onto the dry,painted surface with burnt sienna oil paint, then returned to the beach on another bright afternoon to add more background information. The painting was completed by finishing the figures in my studio. Other small works share a similar approach and can be seen on my website, their titles are: “Sharky’s Short Fuse”, “Guarding the Rum”, “Wandering Maroon”, “Foraging For Dinner”, and “Out for a Bite”.